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The Velvet Underground - Under Review
The Velvet Underground - Under Review
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Documentary
NR     2006     1hr 25min

Velvet Underground Under Review is a 75 minute film reviewing the music and career of one of rock musics most influential collectives; a band which esteemed music journalist Lester Bangs claims started modern music. It fe...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Pop, Rock & Roll, Documentary
Studio: Sexy Intellectual
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 04/25/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 25min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

An Analysis, not a Documentary
Sherringford Clark | Mayor's Income, Tennessee | 04/24/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I have to admit, I was kind of disappointed by this DVD. I knew that there would be little visual footage of the Velvets, but I guess I was expecting something more. Of course, the only real footage of the band in action comes from the 1966-67/Warhol period. The songs of the Velvets aired in the DVD are generally accompanied by stock video footage of New York, some of which seems recent despite its being in black and white.
Some true insights do come from many of the interviewees, especially Moe Tucker and Doug Yule but also many of the others, including critics like Christgau and Warholite Billy Name.
The DVD primarily consists of analysis of various songs from the Velvets' career done album by album, though the "Live 1969" and "VU" albums are pretty much just glossed over. The song analysis on the songs is generally insightful, but the history of the band is pretty sketchy, with little account of the band's formation or their very early days before meeting Warhol and Nico. The information provided in the book "Up-Tight" or the booklet to "Peel Slowly and See" is much more in-depth than what we get on the DVD.
Also, the narrator (who sounds quite bored and unenthusiastic) states that the VU boycotted New York gigs "for some strange reason," not mentioning that it was because New York radio stations refused to play their first singles. This inaccuracy makes me think that the producers didn't do any research other than interviewing people about the band.
Of course, Lou Reed and John Cale's lack of participation is a big negative, and the DVD can hardly be called definitive without it. Indeed, this DVD isn't really a documentary, and is hardly up to the level of, say, the "American Masters" series, which did an excellent biography of Lou Reed. Yet, "Under Review" isn't described as a history of the Velvets but only as an "independent critical analysis," and it does provide that. Still, I found the DVD lacking somehow, and anyone looking for more than just an analysis of the Velvets' musical significance is going to be disappointed."
No Lou, No Cale
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 07/12/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I am a big Velvets fan but found this documentary to be rather mundane and uninspired. I also wanted to hear about Velvet related activity in the 70's (ie solo Nico, solo Lou, solo Cale etc...)but no. This unoffical critical documentary just deals with the four studio albums. And Mo's the only original Velvet available for comment.

For such an avant-garde band you would think they would interview some avant-garde spirits but mainly you get Mo Tucker reminiscing. She really gives most of the credit for the bands sound to John Cale. You also get the very staid Doug Yule (John Cale's replacement) who is likable (and who we learn did provide the vocals on "Candy Says") but who admits to never havng been "in the loop" when band decisions were being made. It seems he was basically hired because the band needed a guitar player to tour with and he was a guy who was not going to cause any creative tension with the always contentious Lou. This was a band that had two leaders, Lou Reed and John Cale (who left band after second album), and neither of them say a word or are even quoted even once on this documentary. Mo is nice and provides a few interesting insights into how the bands dynamic changed with each line-up but she doesn't provide anything like revelations about what happened between Cale and Reed.

We learn:

Album #1: Warhol promoted but did not produce the album. Band was basically forced to work with Nico. Most critics say "Venus in Furs" was the albums masterpice and that this song changed rock music. "Sunday Morning" was supposed to sung by Nico and this was supposed to be the song that would make it to radio but Lou sang it instead (one critic claimed that Lou sang it in a more feminine way than Nico could have). The album was recorded in 8 hours according to Mo and it sat on a shelf for a year before it was released.

Album #2: Many critics claim this is the "purest" Velvet record. Its certainly the hardest and the fastest. "White Light/White Heat" was written by Cale one morning during a snowstorm after a night of speed. "Sister Ray" is one of Mo's all-time favorites.

Album #3: Mellowest record and a lot of people's favorite. Yule's favorite (perhaps because it was the first one he played on). Yule claims he likes it the best because they were a real fully functioning band playing well together when it was recorded. Critics say Cale's departure allowed the band to explore their own talents as musicians (when Cale played everyone else was pushed into the background). One critic raves about the "What Goes On" dueling guitar parts and I would recommend you go listen to that right now. It is really cool.

Album #4: Most critics concede that the band was not getting along during the recording of this record and that this one was written to gain commercial attention and that its much too compromised. Mo does not drum on the record because she was pregnant at the time it was recorded. "Sweet Jane" was written to be a radio hit.

Some of these tidbits are useful but due to lack of interview candidates, various V.U. controversies and mysteries are aired but remain as unresolved as ever.

Also the video footage is grainy and none of it is particularly mesmerizing. I understand that old super-8mm footage isn't going to be pristine but the breif splices of footage presented on this DVD are ridiculously blurry. You can tell its the Velvets but its not LIVE concert footage, rather the documentarians simply play the studio versions of the songs as they play a few seconds of grainy footage of Velvets just talking or hanging out or onstage. Most of the footage is Factory types dancing. Its pretty much a scrapbook collection, and a pretty scant one at that. Warholite Billy Name waxes about the iconic album covers that he designed.

If you want to know about the Velvets it is probably best to read the books they read and listen to their music etc....and write your own poetry and paint your own paintings while doing so. This will put you closer to the Velvet spirit than hearing club owners and record producers remember that night at Max's Kansas City."
WHAT GOES ON?
Benn Godbee | Cleveland,OH | 05/06/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)

"What goes on here? The line "contains unreleased live and studio music" is totally wrong!!! There is no live music at all and the studio tracks have all been released previously.The live "clips" of the early band are the same 2 or 3 15 second shots with no sound shown a few times.A picture book would give the same look at the band menbers and the various memorabilia.
The Mo and Doug Yule interviews are interesting.It was also nice to see what a toe-f@@ker looks like - listen to Lou's "Take No Prisoners"
No Lou Reed. No John Cale.
I wish I had waited to buy it used instead of pre-ordering it."
Review of the albums as produced
BILLY NAME | billyname.com, NEW YORK, USA | 09/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"contrary to what a previous reviewer and what mo tucker says in the interview (everybody was not in all the loops all the time), andy warhol and the factory did act as producer of the velvet underground and nico album and art(the first album). it wouldn't have happened as it did if the band tried to push it independently. it was andy's connections and influence that made it move into production.

moe tucker is delightful and the critics and other reviewers insights are worth hearing. doug yule is cool. i got to give my input on the album art for the first time. any vu lover will enjoy this dvd. (no, i do not get a cut). billy name."